Stevens: Soft Goals Don't Hurt Hard Lobos in 3-2 Win over Saint Louis
Sept. 1, 2010
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The goals allowed by the New Mexico Lobos Wednesday night in their 3-2 win over No. 25 Saint Louis might have been soft, coming off set plays by the Billikens. The Lobos weren't soft.
The scoreboard might not have fairly reflected the difference between Lobos and Billikens, but the stat sheet screamed out a huge gap and strongly hinted that the wrong team was ranked Wednesday night at the Lobo Soccer Complex.
The Lobos took 21 shots to four for the visitors from the Atlantic 10 Conference. UNM had 12 shots on goal to only three for Saint Louis.
And actually the Lobos found the net four times in front of the crowd of 2,153. Saint Louis' second goal came courtesy of a UNM defensive header and went into the books as an own-goal by UNM.
Lobo Coach Jeremy Fishbein was happy with the win and a bit concerned about the play of his defense especially with No. 5 UC Santa Barbara coming for a 7 p.m. visit Saturday.
"It's too hard to score goals. You can't give up soft ones," said Fishbein, who saw his Lobos go 1-0-0 in the young season. "We are excited about Saturday's game against a much, much better team. We can't make mistakes on Saturday or we'll get punished."
The Lobos' first big mistake on Wednesday was a defensive error and it put UNM in a 1-0 hole at the 10:14 mark of the first half. The Lobos dominated the first half - 10 shots to two - but evenly shared the scoreboard with Saint Louis.
Billiken Christian Briggs accepted a corner kick directly in front of UNM keeper Justin Holmes. With no Lobo defender near, Briggs blasted his shot toward the UNM net, but a tad high. The ball hit the crossbar, came back down into Holmes, and ended up in the back of the UNM net.
UNM dominated play in the first half and tied the score 1-1 at 32:07. UNM's Devon Sandoval found the ball at his feet in front of the Saint Louis net. He blasted a rocket at the Billiken keeper. The ball bounced hard back and right to the feet of Lobo Levi Rossi. He had a clear angle to the net and hit it. The score was 1-1. The teams carried that count into halftime.
"It's a bitter-sweet win," said Fishbein. "We said this is a team that the only way they are going to beat us is with set (plays). They score two goals on set pieces. That can't happen.
"Good teams don't allow soft goals. They are mental mistakes. We showed how good we can be, but we still need to be a team that mentally is so disciplined and so tough that we don't allow stuff like that to hurt us."
The Lobos showed mental toughness and lots of talent early in the second half. The Lobos go-ahead goal was a combination of beauty and perfection.
Senior Michael Reed sent a long cross floating in front of the Saint Louis net toward freshman Michael Kafari. Kafari was well marked, but out jumped a Billiken defender to head a high floater toward the Saint Louis net. The Billiken keeper had no chance as the ball easily cleared his head to his right side and stopped deep in the Saint Louis net.
Kafari, who had to concentrate on a long, high pass and beat an aggressive defender in the air, showed great peripheral vision on the play. "I saw the keeper kind of leaning to his left shoulder, so I tried to direct it to the other side because I knew he wouldn't get there," said Kafari. "It happened real fast.
"We came out really slow, but we pulled it out in the second half. Coach told us (at half) to stay loose, that we were better than this team; just do our thing."
Lance Rozeboom did a good thing at the 59:46 mark of the second half. He launched a rocket at the Billikens' net from deep on the right side in front of the 2,153 fans
It was one of those long bombs that have to have perfect touch and perfect angle to get past a keeper. It was one of those shots a keeper usually has time to hunt down and smother. But not this time, not this shot.
"I just thought I'd have a go at it," said the UNM junior. "The far post was open and fortunately it went in this time. That's one of those shots you just have a go. You can't win the lottery, if you don't buy a ticket."
The game which was a romp on the field and on the stats' sheet was now becoming a romp on the scoreboard. UNM was up 3-1. The Lobos handed Saint Louis a gift at the 83:06 mark when a defensive clear ended up as an own-goal. The 3-2 score made the final two minutes interesting as Billiken desperation gave the visitors from Saint Louis a few chances.
"We need to tighten a few things up, but it was a good way to start the season," said Rozeboom. "We were dominating the flow of the game and we knew if we kept doing what we were doing that the goals would come.
"It was a convincing win, but we expect to beat anyone in the country when they come in here."
Those expectations probably need to be supported by hard Lobos not giving up anything soft on Saturday. It only gets harder when No. 5 comes to town.